Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jeffery Wells, Professor and Author

Jeff Wells is a native Georgian, having been raised in Montgomery County. A graduate of the University of Georgia and Georgia College and State University, he has been a classroom educator for the last 16 years. Eight of those have been in the college classroom at Georgia Military College where he now holds the position of Social and Behavioral Sciences Division Chair. He is the author of four books on Georgia history.

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
My father and grandfather (dad's side) inspired a love of family and local history in me when I was young. I also found out that it may be genetic (said with a slight smile) as my father was an A student in his high school history classes, and ironically enough, we had the same high school history teacher. She is a main reason I was drawn to history. Faye Brewer, who not only taught my father and me, but also my mother and all her siblings, is a legend in Montgomery County, Georgia. Her 40 plus year career in the classroom, teaching history, caught a lot of fish in the net of history.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
I have always believed that history not only helps us understand who we are, but it helps us have a better connection to our fellow human beings. For instance, I did not realize how many people I was related to until I started exploring my family's history and the history of our community. In addition, I have a better understanding of the way things are now and how they came to be simply because I understand the flow of history and how it has led us to the place we are now as a culture.

3. How is history a part of your professional life and career?
As a full-time professor of history at Georgia Military College, it occupies a large part of my professional life.

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
What many people don't realize is that studying history can not only lead one to a greater understanding of the past, but it can also build good thinking and reading skills. Figuring out why things happened and how to prevent certain things from happening again is an important characteristic of a good student of history. I also think that a good study of history helps us understand economics, sociology, politics, ethics, law, and government. There is a reason that history degrees are still marketable in a world dominated by the STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
I love almost every period of Georgia history and that is more or less because I am a Georgia native with 10 generations of family who have called Georgia home. In addition, I love the War of 1812 because it is the forgotten war, yet the impact our victory had cannot be underestimated. There is a reason historians call it the Second War for Independence. I also love the Age of Jackson because of its colorful characters and the rough nature of its politics. In terms of world history, nothing fascinates me more than the Hebrews, as their religion is the backbone of Christianity and a large part of modern culture.

6. You wrote In Atlanta or in Hell about the worst train wreck in Georgia history. What makes
that story so compelling?
Perhaps more than anything, this story is a great example of man's inability to overcome nature. Set in the midst of the Industrial Age, the Camp Creek Train Crash shows us how our machines are still secondary to nature and the acts of God. Also of merit are the many stories of survivors and their rescuers, heroes whose stories went untold for generations.

7. What projects are you now working on or is next on the horizon?
Right now, I am focusing on finding as much about legendary Georgia businessman and cotton merchant, Godfrey Barnsley, as I can. Everyone has heard the ghost stories associated with his Barnsley Gardens. It is the centerpiece of Georgia folklore and legends, and once I began to explore the man behind the legend, I found even more fascinating items about his life and his family. I am also working on an article about the Pine Barrens Land Fraud in Georgia. It is an interesting part of the early days of Georgia, but it also involves my home-Montgomery County, Georgia-and that is quite fascinating to me!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

7 Questions with Bill Pacer, AKA Ben Franklin

1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I have always been hooked on history!!! The past has fascinated me as long as I can remember. My parents enjoyed traveling to historic sites and I savored reading non-fiction books

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
I enjoy playing historical characters. My favorite, of course, is Benjamin Franklin. I have become obsessed with him and have created several solo shows highlighting his life

3. How is/How was history a part of your professional life/career?
I am intrigued by the past and find myself drawn to museums and historic sites.  Since I portray Benjamin Franklin, accuracy is vital and thus I am constantly reading and verifying.  Acting is my profession and Franklin is my life. 

4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
The past is essential to knowing the future.  It is like a window. If the past is clear, the window to the future should be relatively streak free. However, if the past is smudged, hidden behind the dirt of arrogance and ignorance, the future is very unclear and fraught with hidden dangers.

5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about or teach about and why?
The Revolutionary War and the 1700s---because that's Ben time!!!  I am also interested in the Civil War and writing solo shows about that era. I am a certified teacher and when I was in the classroom I loved getting my students to relate to history and mentally put themselves into that prior time.

6. How did you become a re-enactor?
About ten years, I auditioned for the "Georgia Independence Day Festival"  and the young lady directing the cast said I looked like Ben Franklin. For a few years, I did Ben lookalike gigs and walkabouts. As I learned more about Franklin and added quips to my routine, many suggested I create a show. I assumed that the research and writing would take a few months.  Six years later, I took the show to the stage and earned accolades for my performance. I now continue to research and perform.

7. How do you choose and create your characters?
Chosen by fate to be Ben and I choose to delve into books to research. Like Ben,  "I cannot remember when I could not read." 

For More Information about Mr. Pacer, please see these articles.

To contact him, billpacer@gmail.com